Monday, May 28, 2012

Review: City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments, #5)Book: City of Lost Souls
Series: The Mortal Instruments
Author: Cassandra Clare
Release Date: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Source: Library Copy
Pages: 534
My Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads Summary:
The demon Lilith has been destroyed and Jace has been freed from her captivity. But when the Shadowhunters arrive to rescue him, they find only blood and broken glass. Not only is the boy Clary loves missing–but so is the boy she hates, Sebastian, the son of her father Valentine: a son determined to succeed where their father failed, and bring the Shadowhunters to their knees.

No magic the Clave can summon can locate either boy, but Jace cannot stay away—not from Clary. When they meet again Clary discovers the horror Lilith’s dying magic has wrought—Jace is no longer the boy she loved. He and Sebastian are now bound to each other, and Jace has become what he most feared: a true servant of Valentine’s evil. The Clave is determined to destroy Sebastian, but there is no way to harm one boy without destroying the other. Will the Shadowhunters hesitate to kill one of their own?

Only a small band of Clary and Jace’s friends and family believe that Jace can still be saved — and that the fate of the Shadowhunters’ future may hinge on that salvation. They must defy the Clave and strike out on their own. Alec, Magnus, Simon and Isabelle must work together to save Jace: bargaining with the sinister Faerie Queen, contemplating deals with demons, and turning at last to the Iron Sisters, the reclusive and merciless weapons makers for the Shadowhunters, who tell them that no weapon on this earth can sever the bond between Sebastian and Jace. Their only chance of cutting Jace free is to challenge Heaven and Hell — a risk that could claim any, or all, of their lives.

And they must do it without Clary. For Clary has gone into the heart of darkness, to play a dangerous game utterly alone. The price of losing the game is not just her own life, but Jace’s soul. She’s willing to do anything for Jace, but can she even still trust him? Or is he truly lost? What price is too high to pay, even for love?

Darkness threatens to claim the Shadowhunters in the harrowing fifth book of the Mortal Instruments series.

'You can't raise a child to believe the opposite of what you do. I don't think she doesn't believe she can die. I think, just like you always did, she believes there are things worth dying for.'

Hear that? I think that's the sound of Cassandra Clare's brilliance coming back. If there is one thing that is true about the Mortal Instruments series, I think it's that this book is way better than its predecessor. The plot isn't going haywire anymore, and for once there's direction to what the characters are doing. That's not to say that all the different perspectives and couples didn't boggle my mind, but I will willingly overlook that in this case. Clare has brought back the old sparkle that made her previous books so hotly discussed. I was no longer irritated with her for drawing out Clary and Jace's suffering. In fact, I thought Jace was pretty cute in this book. It was probably because he'd lost all moral obligation and wasn't angsting all over the place like he was in CoFA. My mom actually read this book before me, and she agrees with me. I really enjoyed the multiple facets that were seemingly given to Sebastian, and I almost found myself trusting him too. Which I never should have done, but kudos to Cassandra Clare for making me almost believe that the evilest evil-doer on the face of evil could actually be good. The best villains, after all, are the ones who are convinced that they're doing something right. Also, I am now 99% certain that Brother Zachariah is Will. Please. His "interest" in the Herondales and that time when he says he would die for two people? He's definitely not Barney the Purple Dinosaur.

One thing that stands out to me most about this book: Clary. She goes from the wimpy girl from CoB to a total demon ass-kicking heroine. I was pretty worried in the middle about her developing a case of Stockholm Syndrome, but even though she wavered at moments, she never forgot about the task at hand. Especially when she fights back against Sebastian. Speaking of Sebastian and Clary. Ewwwww. That scene with them...ewwwwwww. That is all I have to say. Anyway, Clary's final act at the climax proved to me that she had learned from all her experiences considering selfishness, love, and sacrifice. Which brings me to the next topic.

Whew, is there a lot of sacrifice in this book. There are people offering themselves up left and right, clandestine exchanges everywhere...It's a pretty bittersweet ending that this book has, and I hope that all of the characters will end up finding happiness, if only because all of them have been through such complete, utter crap. I mean, Magnus and Alec? It made me sad. It really did. But I was glad that Magnus had finally decided to speak out against the way everyone was treating him like the answer to everything. But I really like Magnus, and so I hope he and Alec solve their problems and are a happily ever after couple. Because they deserve nothing less.

One thing that niggles me about this book is the fact that the Clave seems totally useless. They're like the cops in those superhero movies, in that they always rush in and make things worse by getting in the superheroes' faces with their walky-talkies and badges or whatnot, and in the end their cop cars blow up and the villains escape because of them. I haven't seem them do anything good, actually. Their contempt towards Downworlders and the ineffectiveness of the "Law" don't exactly strike much faith in me. Also, I didn't enjoy Maia and Jordan's pillow talk. Or anything about them, really. Too much kissing, not much else happening. That was a problem throughout the book for me, actually. There was too much almost-sex happening where it didn't really mean anything, and I found myself skimming those parts. The ol' metaphors and similes are still at large, and I could have done with less description. But I loved learning about Paris, Prague, and Venice. It's always a nice surprise when the characters travel to different places.

Other than that, I really did like this book. I finished it in two days, if that's any indication.

Last thoughts:
Maureen: What. The. Flipping. Flamingo. I'm scared.
And one again, Magnus and Alec:

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Review: Timepiece by Myra McEntire

Timepiece (Hourglass, #2)Book: Timepiece
Series: Hourglass
Author: Myra McEntire
Release Date: June 12th 2012
Publisher: Egmont USA
Source: NetGalley
Pages: 336
My Rating: 2 stars

My only reaction to this book: meh.

I think I couldn't enjoy this book partly because I remember next to nothing from Hourglass and didn't have the time or patience to reread it again, and partly because I didn't much care for Kaleb's character.

Too many rules. There are way too many rules about time traveling, and I couldn't keep all of them straight. For the first half of the book, I was just wondering, Who's Dune? Who's Nathan (actually, I still am not too sure who Nathan is). What's duronium? When did Michael and Em get their rings? Who the hell is Poe? Too many characters, too much going on. Too much of everything, with the exception of an engaging plot. It's a cheap trick, I'm starting to think, to take away lives easily by changing time. It's redundant, and frankly, boring. The same problem can't keep popping up every ten pages; the point of a story is for the people to hurdle barriers and meet new ones. Also, the way McEntire tells the story wasn't particularly interesting, either. The "climax" at the end lasted about five pages, while there were about a couple hundred pages of Kaleb and Lily running around from place to place discovering new things in massive info dumps. Seriously, this is how the climax went down:

Kaleb: He has my girlfriend! I'll kill him!
Lily: Aahhh I'm scared.
Kaleb: He has my girlfriend! I can actually see it happening now! I'll kill him!
Jack: *evil laughter*
Kaleb: Ohmygod where did you come from! What do I do now!?
Lily: I was too stupid to lie before, but I am now because my boyfriend told me to!
Jack: *more evil laughter*
Teague: The answer to all your problems--me--is here!
Lily: *suddenly gets smart and strikes deal with Teague that Teague is too stupid to see through*
Kaleb: We're safe! But Em and Michael are gone :(
Em and Michael: We're here!
Everyone: Yaaaay!

If you do not have the reaction of "wtf" to my summary of the last part of this book, I beg you to explain it to me. Because I fail to understand what the big deal was, if everyone was just going to magically appear (not kidding, they really do). There is no thought-out resolution. Everyone. Just. Appears. And the cliffhanger? Come on. It's so soap opera-like that I cringed. Jack is a failure of a villain. I mean, "rotten to his core?" Come on. The explanation of why he was doing everything was rushed, so I came away going, okaaaaaaay, and I should care about this why?

Kaleb seemed to be a shortcut of explaining all the emotions of the characters so McEntire wouldn't have to actually describe them. Maybe if she'd bothered to write more according to how the others interacted with Kaleb instead of how Kaleb was feeling what they were feeling (mega-confusion, right?), I would've felt more connected to the story. I didn't like the main character of this story. Not at all. He is, of course, the reformed bad boy with a drinking problem, tats, and piercings all over the place, as well as an unhealthy libido that is what attracts him to Emerson's best friend, Lily, in the first place. He also is so full of rage and desperation that it blocks out anything interesting about him. Half the time, he's ranting about his anger and sadness, and the other half he's waxing poetic about Lily. In other words, he seems like your average teenage girl (minus the lusting after Lily thing).

Don't even get me started on their relationship. Three quarters of it was comprised of Kaleb talking about Lily's smell or how she looked. Their more emotional reasons for liking each other were painfully shallow. Just because a guy is desperate and self-destructive does not make him attractive! If I met a guy like Kaleb who tried to cop a feel when I was clearly uninterested, in addition to his constant rage over everything, I would scream and run. Really. So no points to Lily, even though she was clearly McEntire's attempt at a kickass female character. I totally rooted for her in the beginning, but when she started showing off that lacy camisole and touching Kaleb's face (lots of face-touching), I was out of there.

There's more I could say about this book, but that's it for now. I don't think I really like much about it, although I did enjoy the descriptions of the rips. I love the concept of time travel, especially when the characters go to different centuries or places, but and the series in general has none of that appeal. However, I will say that the characters aren't as stupid as some of the ones I've read. Which is why I gave the book 2 stars. I may also have been so confused by information overload and all the different places they were running to that I might not have even realized they were being stupid.

I think I've given up on this series, but that's no reason for you to! I'm sure if you've read Hourglass recently, this book will be much more enjoyable.

I do love this cover very much, despite the fact that it's very deceiving. It should show Kaleb punching through a door instead.

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Insurgent (Divergent, #2)Book: Insurgent
Series: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Publishing Date: May 1st, 2012
Publisher: HarperTeen
My rating: 4 Stars

Actual Rating: 4.5 Stars Also, spoilers from the first book.
My face after I finished:

Wat, Shocked Face Pictures, Images and Photos

Roth, way to make me sob for the next book.

How will I start this review? I'll start it with a quote from the book itself, because this book deserves to be quoted:

People, I have discovered, are layers and layers of secrets. You believe you know them, that you understand them, but their motives are always hidden from you, buried in their own hearts. You will never know them, but sometimes you decide to trust them.

I loved this book, despite some of its inconsistencies, because of the strength of its characters and because of what it says about human nature and the world. I know some don't like Insurgent as much as Divergent, and that's understandable. Insurgent takes things to a darker, grittier level. This is the aftermath of the first book, where Tris has already seen family die and killed a friend with her own hands. For much of the beginning, I felt hopeless, just as I'm sure she did, too. That doesn't make up for the fact that Tris makes some pretty stupid decisions. For example, turning herself in when it wouldn't have done much good in the first place. I mean, all that happened was that they would run tests on her and try to control everyone, so I didn't see how she thought self-execution would help. But I can't hope to understand someone who has basically had all of her family torn away, who doesn't know whom to trust, and who's consumed by grief and rage. I felt that this book was better than the first because it dealt more with the characters themselves, especially Tris, and how they were shaped by their choices.

Once again, Roth brings back a whole bunch of action sequences that are clear-cut and narrated in her usual, clinical style. I finished this book (500+ pages!) all today, so I count it as a grand accomplishment. It was hard to read, not because of pacing, but because it was difficult to see all the hurt and deaths due to cruelty. That's why I loved this book more than the first. The emotions are expounded upon, and good and evil aren't black and white. Nobody was as he/she first appeared, and because of this, Roth does an excellent job in making each character more memorable and standalone. I liked what she did with Peter, Marcus, Christina, and Jeanine. It was just one guy double crossing the other guy's double cross all over the place, but I enjoyed the twists. They kept me guessing, unlike the first book. Also, I adored Tobias. I'm pretty sure he's my favorite fictional male protagonist because he's strong, honest, has his own past and suspicions. It made him seem real, not just some other attractive dude thrown into the main character's path so they can kiss and sacrifice the entire world for each other. The romance is some of the plot, but it never gets overbearing or gag-inducing.

"I don't..." I sound like I am being strangled. "My family is all dead, or traitors; how can I..." 

I am not making any sense. The sobs take over my body, my mind, everything. He gathers me to him, and bathwater soaks my legs. His hold is tight. I listen to his heartbeat and, after a while, find a way to let the rhythm calm me.

"I'll be your family now," he says.


Besides the character, Roth says a lot about the world itself in her books. She brings up topics of bravery, sacrifice, the strength of love and loyalty, and what exactly the right choice is. I'm so sick of all the YA novels talking about the importance of love or how it can ruin a person forever, and I'm glad that someone has the sense enough to speculate more into topics that will come of a shattered world, maybe even the future we're all destined for. I'll probably get condemned for this comparison, but I'm just going to say that these books remind me the most of The Hunger Games because it's not love-centric, and it definitely does what a good dystopian novel should.

The ending definitely wasn't as anticlimactic as the one I got in Divergent, though it still didn't seem that earth-shattering because of all the crappy stuff that happens throughout the book, and I can't say it was wholly unexpected. But it riled me up for the next book, and I'm like a cheerleader with pompoms right now, I'm so excited for the third. There were a couple discrepancies, and sometimes I felt that it was sort of difficult to keep up with what was happening with all the groaning and screaming through teeth, but I made it through okay. There was this part where Tris shoots a window with her gun when just a couple minutes before she refused to take one because of the whole shooting-Will-PTSD, and that made me a bit confused. But other than that, everything was spectacular.

I'm expecting a lot from Ms. Roth now.

And ugh, I'm going to go read a romance novel or something. All of this angst and world destruction has made me feel icky.

(Also, apologies if this review was not as succinct/sensible as my others. I find it difficult to talk about books I love. It's definitely easier to insult books than to really capture all the things that make them great.)

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Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1)Book: Cinder
Author: Marissa Meyer
Series: Lunar Chronicles
Publishing Date: January 3rd, 2012
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
My rating: 3 Stars

Initially, I wasn't going to read this book, maybe because I was a bit wary of a cyborg-Cinderella story. I mean, a cynic like me who hears rumors of a dystopian novel set with robots, technology, kingdoms, and BEIJING would immediately have expected something subpar. But I looked at that cover, and I thought that I should get it just to stare at it. I still can't stop staring at it. The reflections on the shoe and the metal bones. AHHH. That is some serious case of cover-love.

For this review, I'll start with the characters.
Cinder: Cool. Awkward. Another one of those ugly-but-pretty girls. Prone to strange acts of embarrassment, like hiding herself behind her hair while she gasps? I don't know. Meyer's description needs some improvement.

Kai: Cute. Immature, but of course he's never been taught in etiquette because he's a prince! No, he just suffers from some foot-in-mouth syndrome sometimes. Other than that, he improves towards the end, and his reaction to the situation is about the only one that made sense. Although he needs to stop inclining his head and making his hair fall into his eyes. He's going to go blind soon if he doesn't get a haircut.

Peony: Meyer is just too cruel. Peony is the sweetest character ever. And I feel like she had more potential than what she was given. To be honest, it felt more like she was more engineered to die and give Cinder something to fight for than anything else.

Pearl and Adri: Honestly? Bitches. Both of them. I was hoping for something that would make them understandable, and Meyer seemed to have been going in that direction in the beginning of the book, with all the stuff about Adri seeming guilty about sending Cinder away. But nope. They're just bitches. Which was quite a disappointment. Like Meyer sort of wanted to change things up but got lazy or forgot.

Dr. Erland: I quite like this guy. He's funny. Strangely enough, I thought he was the evil one, and his ulterior motives were some of the few things I didn't immediately realize in the beginning.

Queen Levana: Perhaps even bitchier than Pearl and Adri. Definitely more diabolical. However, I think Meyer spent a little too much time talking about Levana being evil instead of showing that she was. Because of this, her actions seemed more wooden, and I could only manage a "huh, did she just ruin all their lives?" at the end.

Not a very exciting cast of characters (with the exception of the Doctor. He was awesome.) or even witty dialogue, in my opinion, but something that redeemed this was the idea. CINDER is possibly one of the more original books I've read, which is ironic considering the fairytale it revolves around. It had so much potential, but Meyer only pulls off half of it. I loved the idea of the Lunars, since moving to space is a big deal in the world of science. That an author would consider exploring the ramifications shows capacity for creativity. The unfortunate thing is that Meyer starts off with a predictable plot, and an equally predictable set of characters. Despite the fresh idea, this book seems to be only a shell of what could have been amazing. The setting of New Beijing in the midst of all this stuff about "dystopian America" is actually nicely done. I can't complain too much about her world building--despite passing off a disease as something with no cure, no origins, no nothing, she does explain, albeit blatantly obviously.

That was what knocked off a star for me. How blatantly obvious everything is, even from the beginning. I basically read 200 pages just to have everything confirmed for me. It would've been nice if Meyer had thrown in a plot twist or two to spice things up. The ending was intended to be cliffhanger-y, but I just said "meh," then booted up my computer to write this review.

The other star is for the mediocre cast. The three stars are for the brilliant idea and the cover, maybe even for some of the cute scenes between Kai and Cinder that made me laugh. I liked her entrance into the ball. Also, this book kept me reading, despite everything, and that's always important.

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French KissBook: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Publishing Date: December 2nd, 2010
Publisher: Dutton
My rating: 4 Stars

This was a delightful change from the sudden-love witch-vampire-weird supernatural love triangle. I haven't read chick lit in so long, I've forgotten all the cute NORMALCY that you find in them.

What I liked most about this book was the voice. Anna has a strong voice, and her teenager-esque comments were always amusing. She has a passion--movies--and she has her own understandable problems, though it may not seem like it at first. Also, throughout the book, I didn't get pissed at the things she did. She does dumb things, sure, but they make sense. They're not just creepy or weird. Don't even get me started on St. Claire. I liked that he wasn't just blindingly gorgeous-which he is-but that he was a little on the short side and had his own issues.

The character development for Anna was strong, and that's the kind of thing that these kinds of novels need. Perkins does a great job of it, and the way she narrates Anna's journey through France at the same time that she's building friendships is smooth. I like that she doesn't just do the old love triangle-she puts a new spin on it, and I was pleasantly surprised. In addition, the sexual tension is just plain hot.

The reason I couldn't give this 5 stars is that there were moments when the book was just a little too cliche for me. I understand that Perkins was probably trying to give those old cliches a new, fun spin, but they were a bit overwhelming sometimes.

I do recommend this book for anyone who's looking for a fun read, though, because it is definitely that.

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Review: Angelfall by Susan Ee

Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, #1)Angelfall by Susan Ee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review to come because I put off about 3 hours of studying for this.

Edit-Rating: 4.5 Stars
This book is incredible. The very first sentence just sucks you in, and I swear I tried, but I could not untangle myself from this story. I had to finish it, and finish it I did, at the price of not getting any work done. But it was well worth it. Why?

Because Penryn is a badass, that's why! And because Raffe makes all the girls' hearts flutter.

So, let's think about what you get from this book. You get a heroine who can actually kick some serious butt and has undying loyalty that gets her in bad situations but simultaneously makes her endearing and not whiny. In addition, she is not willing to sacrifice her strange family even for some hot stranger with wings (Hush, Hush, anyone?). You get a dreamy guy who is all suaveness and charm but gets some serious hurt throughout the story instead of somehow being untouchable. Also, he doesn't sound like some blathering romantic and actually is not emasculated by his time near possible love interest (*cough* Daniel Grigori *cough*). And you get a plot that leaves you reeling and basically sobbing for the next book.

A bonus? There are flesh eating creatures and some Mengele-esque experiments.

I think I've already given away too much, but it's safe to see here that this story is definitely original. Susan Ee knows what she's talking about, and she's not afraid of writing it. While I recommend this for slightly more mature young adult audiences, I think that everyone would get a kick out of this book. This is the first book in months in which I have actually been emotionally invested in, and that's a bad sign about the publishing industry, if they're publishing books like Fallen over jewels like this one. While I would have liked a bit more world building, like why Gabriel was flying around in the sky in the first place, that definitely didn't affect the pace with which I devoured this book. I seriously devoured it. I put my iPod in my bathroom, and after I finished showering, I stayed in the bathroom for an hour reading.

Engrossing. If you're looking for action, stop here. Right now, I believe this is the best post-apocalyptic book out of 2011 because of the amazing job Susan Ee has done with her characters and her plot. All of her characters have weaknesses and distinguishing points, with the exception of Obi, who I was little iffy about. The love relationship develops slowly and subtly, in a way that's believable. And I loved the voice that Ee gave to Penryn. She doesn't wax poetry or complain shallowly (Juliette from SHATTER ME and almost all other heroines), and her voice comes as painfully sincere. A teenager thrust into the boots of a grown-up who is taking the responsibility but holding on to who she is the way she knows how. The fact is that nobody in this book is perfect, and that's definitely a change from the usual la-la-la the world is blowing up around me but nothing's my fault trend.

This is also the best book about angels I've read so far. Daniel Grigori, Patch Cipriano, and the Churches can all burn in a bloody hellfire as far as I'm concerned. Ee did her research. She definitely didn't mess up with the Grigori and the archangels. Somehow, she has spun it to a darker angle than most would be used to. The end definitely made me clutch my chest. I had no idea what would happen to the characters, and I zoomed through the last 100 pages because I couldn't bear not knowing what would happen to everyone. It threw me for a loop, but the book did end on a hopeful note that closed it off but had me banging my head when I realized that I don't know when the sequel is out.

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Review: Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins

Spell Bound (Hex Hall, #3)Book: Spell Bound
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Series: Hex Hall
Publishing Date: March 13th, 2012
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH
My rating: 3 Stars

**There will be spoilers, but I'll tell you beforehand**
It's finally over! *big exhale* I'm giving this book 3 stars because, despite the quips and awesome make out scenes, it was still lacking a lot of important parts that make up a novel. But I'll begin with the things I liked about it.

Sophie's character. Sometimes she was a bit blabbery and annoying, but I never thought her choices were dumb. Her internal monologue actually made me laugh multiple times, and she exemplifies the teenager with tons of supernatural issues perfectly. She deals with them with a certain amount of light-heartedness and fear, which I thought were sincere and real. Not many authors remember to make their heroines have a bit of common sense, and I'm glad Sophie had some of that.

Her relationship with Jenna. I loved it in the previous books, and in this one, it was the same sort of snappy camaraderie that makes them so likable.

The fact that even though the plot was serious and pretty darned freaky, Hawkins managed to insert humorous parts that alleviated the heaviness. Some could argue that it ruined the atmosphere and made problems seem insignificant, but I liked it.

What I didn't like, however, was the suddenness of the plot. I finished the book in one day, so it was a short read. But I thought everything was executed too quickly, especially the part with the war. I mean, it took up, what, five pages? And it seemed too easy. It was like get in, faint[ witches kill themselves, fiance dies (hide spoiler)], and everything is happily ever after. There was some unfinished business, and I didn't like it. What happened to the Vandy, Torin? And the thing with the dream at the end seemed like Hawkins just wanted to hurry up and finish the book. I would've liked to see what happened immediately after the battle sequence, not Sophie just passing out.

Okay. You are now venturing into spoiler territory. I repeat, SPOILER TERRITORY. Read on at your own risk.

Also, the thing that irked me most was how Hawkins solved the issue of the love triangle in the end. I mean, killing off the other guy? That just seemed completely undeserved, and I felt really sad at the end, even though Cal comes back to haunt them. It just didn't feel complete to me, and it was more than cliche.

That said, I did enjoy this book, and I recommend it for anyone who wants a whole lot of magic and cheese.

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Introductory Post:

I'm in a bit of a hurry, so...
My name is Sophie, I am foolish, naive, and I have built myself a world of books that I don't even think I could dig myself out of now. I mostly read and review Young Adult because of extensive experience in that area due to both reading and writing it. But once in a while, I like a good romance novel or just plain old fiction.
This blog is still under renovation (miserably figuring out how things work), but it will be up and running soon, and I look forward to sharing my reviews/thoughts/etc!